A Japanese sergeant dropped a bottle of Coke where John Mims was supposed to walk, so he picked it up and gave it to him. Afterward, he was punished for his ‘lack of respect.’
“Since I didn’t bow, he took the bottle and busted my teeth out,” he said.
Mims, a Bataan Death March survivor, and approximately 70,000 other Filipino and American prisoners of war, endured the tortuous march in April, 1942. During the march, POWs were forced to walk 80 miles through the Philippines to the captured Camp O’Donnell.
The prisoners were stabbed if they could not keep up, and those who were not bayoneted would most likely die from disease or decapitation before the end of the war.
“After they broke my legs with a bulldozer when I tried to escape, I didn’t think I would make it,” said Mims.
“If a Naval officer didn’t save me before the march to Camp O’Donnell, I would not be here today.”
Stories like Mims’s were not uncommon during the Bataan Death March. I served with some of these survivors. The first one was M/Sgt. Clark, our payroll clerk in our Air Sea Rescue Service at Langley Field, Va. In 1947, when I was a crew chief on one of our rescue planes.
He told us stories that would give you goose bumps all over your body.
These survivors were my heroes.